Drug abuse has become a worldwide issue, where each and every nation is struggling to control and prevent the ever increasing rate of drugs and substance abuse. As of today, the issue has become part of debate in almost all communities and nations in the world, and the question on who should take charge and how these issues should be solved without major effects on the society at large, has also raised more concern.
Drug and substance abuse refers to a maladaptive pattern of frequent use of a certain drug substance, which is not considered dependent (Abadinsky, 2010). While this definition may seem quite broad, there are other multiple definitions of the same action, all of which imply a negative judgment of people’s misuse of a certain type of drug.
Generally, the action of taking drugs within the context of drug abuse is characterized by psychological effects and enhancement of physical and mental performance where non-medical and non-therapeutic reasons prevail. The World Health Organization provides one of the best definitions of drug abuse. It describes it as the harmful or otherwise hazardous use of psychoactive substances which mostly include alcohol and illicit drugs (Kozel, 2002).
This issue has been, and is, also touching millions of people all over the world, either directly for the users or indirectly for their relatives, friends and the general society. Some drugs are considered more dangerous than others within the context of the effect they produce on the user. There are multiple categories and subcategories of drugs, but it is arguable that cocaine and heroin are two most dangerous drugs that produce the most adverse effects on users, and which are most likely abused worldwide.
Cocaine is an alkaloid derived from the leaves of a South American shrub, the erythroxylon coca. It is a very strong reinforcing psychostimulant, and several biochemical and pharmacological tests have shown that the drug acts on the users by blocking the uptake and reuptake of the dopamine neurotransmitter especially in the midbrain of the users.
The activation of the doapmainergic receptors D2 induce the release of an endogenoue chemical, the opioid peptide, which binds to the mu-opioid receptors in the cellular nucleus acumens. It is expected that the effect of these drugs will transform a great number of users which make up a large section of the society, developing what is called the hedonic engineering in the next millennia.
This means that the effect of this drug will genetically re-program the users genomes, injecting new strains of the genes coding for the D2 and other related receptors within the bodies of the users (Abadinsky, 2010). The adverse effects such as metal illnesses and other peak experiences are expected to be an order of the day in future if the current trend of abuse of cocaine is not checked and controlled.
In the early times before the discovery of the extract, the leaves of the coca plant were only used by the noble persons in the Inca communities of South America. It was used for religious, mystical, medical, social and religious purposes. The ‘Conqueros’ used the drug to ward off hunger and fatigue, and to enhance endurance or promote a sense of well being for a short time. The history of the drug control began with the Spanish who, in the 16th century banned its use, even among the tribal leaders, throughout the Spanish colonies in South America and the Caribbean.
Spanish missionaries in the South American colonies described the substance as an agent of the devil due to its possession of the user’s psychological being. They even taught the inhabitants of these regions that the plant was invented by the devil to destroy the natives. They had observed that the communities could not perform their activities without the drug. The colonialists, however, realized that by allowing the indigenous inhabitants to continue using the drugs, they could harvest more profits since the users would develop a tendency of working more for the farmers at low pay and little resistance. The trend thus changed dramatically when the colonial farmers, and finally the catholic missionaries, allowed the indigenous tribes to continue using the plant. This led to massive planting and use of the plant, and finally the plant found its way to other parts of the world. Some industries were developed to extract the actual drug in some portable and usable forms such as tablets.
In the modern world, there routes of administration are used for abuse of cocaine; injections, smoking and snorting. Snorting is the inhalation of cocaine powder, where it is then absorbed into the bloodstream through the nasal membrane. Smoking occurs in the normal manner just as tobacco is smoked, while injection occurs mostly intravenously.
The effect of cocaine on the users is quite strong, and affects both the mental and physical health (Abadinsky, 2010). Cocaine itself is a very strong stimulant of the human nervous system. It increases the level of dopamine neurotransmitter which in turn causes a feeling of pleasure and movement. Specifically, cocaine acts by preventing the reuptake of dopamine neurotransmitter, and thus disrupts the normal neuronal transmission of impulses. This is the main cause of euphoria. Addiction is the major long term effect of the drug, and is the major target of most drug control and intervention methods in use today.
Heroine, unlike cocaine, is a synthetic opioid drug that is developed from morphine (Platt, 2001). Morphine itself is a derivative of opium poppy. Heroin is also known as the diacetylmorphine or diamorphine and its chemical name is 3, 4-diacetylester of morphine. The major and most common form of heroine is a white powder. Afghanistan has been described as the major source of this drug, with an estimation that over 92% of the drug sold worldwide comes from this country in Asia.
The drug is used as an analgesic and recreational substance. The first use involves much endurance, tolerance and physical dependence; but with time develops into addiction. In most countries, the drug has been illegalized, and several laws have prohibited its manufacture, possession, sale and use without license (Galanter, & Kleber, 2008). This applies in most European countries, the USA, Australia, and some African, Asian and south American nations.
The dangers associated with these two drugs on the users mainly rely on the pharmacological aspects of their contents. In the case of heroine, the drug avoids the pharmacological first pass metabolism within the body, which is a conventional process for a most drugs in order to reduce any adverse effect they may contain. The drug is this tendered fat soluble, a characteristic that the original morphine does not possess (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Laboratory and Scientific Section, 2005). It moves via the bloodstream and finds its way into the brain neurons.
Within the brain, the drug is deacylated into its inactive forms and finally to morphine, which then binds to the mu-opioid receptors. This results into euphoria and analgesic effects observed on the users. It has also a feeling of ‘high’ and itching in some users. Several risks are associated with use of heroine. The psychological effect is the most prevalent, but secondary effects are even more dangerous. The short-term effects of heroine abuse normally appear after consumption of a single dose but disappear after only a few hours.
After the very first injection, the users have a feeling of euphoria surge, which is normally accompanied by a dry skin, warm flushing on the skin, and heavy extremities. The euphoria produces wakeful and drowsy states on the user. In most people, mental functioning is overcrowded due to the depression effect of the central nervous system (Kenner, & Lott, 2007). It may also produce other effects on the first time use, including slow gait, droopy eyelids, and impaired sight especially at night, constipation, vomiting, slurred speech and constricted eye pupils.
The long-term effect follows a long time abuse of the drug, which normally comes in after addiction an addiction state. Repeated use of the drug is the key to the long-term effects. These effects include chronic collapse of veins, infection of the heart and valves lining, cellulites, liver diseases and abscess formation on the body. Depression of the immune system caused by the abuse of heroine leads to secondary diseases such as the infection bacteria, fungi and viruses.
The drug also causes suppression of the respiratory system, leading to severe cases of bronchopneumonia. Sudden withdrawal of the drug causes a feeling of drug craving, bone and muscle pain, restlessness, insomnia vomiting, diarrhea, cold flashes and appearance of goose bumps on the skin. These effects occur in just 36b to 72 hours after withdrawal, but may subside after a week of no drug use. However, sudden withdrawal of heavy users is very fatal and most of the time leads to sudden death.
Control and reduction of harm
Various authorities and organizations have developed several intervention methods aimed at reducing the prevalence of effects on the already users and to prevent other persons from using the drug (Hess, & Orthmann, 2009). One of the major intervention methods has its focus on the behavior of the users, where it attempts to promote some safer means of taking the drug such as nasal use, smoking, rectal and orals insertion of the drug. It aims at preventing higher risks of overdose and infections associated with the secondary effects of the drug.
Another intervention aims at encouraging user to try and use little amount of the drugs they move towards quitting abuse. Users are also encouraged to use avoid poly use of the drug, that is use of multiple other drugs bedsides heroine, which is common among the major habits developed by frequent and heavy users.
Education and awareness programs remains some of the most important and effective methods of both control and prevention of the drug abuse. Specifically, young persons are mainly the target of such programs, since the largest number of user each single year comprises of young people, especially adolescent and early adults (International Narcotics Control Board, 2007). Harm reduction measure have greatly reduced the prevalence of heroine abuse in various nations, but the problem of manufacture and sale of the drug remains.
Several government are actually trying to tackle this problem through the use of state machinery on intelligence, the police and community services in order to identify the manufacturers, importers and exporters, salespersons and traffickers as well as the end users, and thus strategies on how to deal with them (Figueira, 2004). However, it appears that each day the manufacturers, traffickers and other persons involved in this are increasingly using the most up to date technology to avoid any chance of apprehension, and thus the problem may remain for quite a longer time.
The governments in some nations have realized the need to allow for alternative use of the drug or other drugs under controlled conditions, aimed at helping the addicts to reduce the amount of drug consumed each and every time. These measures include safe injections site which allow users to inject diacetylmorphine and cocaine only under the strict supervision of experts in medical facilities. This allows the users to undergo psychological services in an aim of encouraging and helping them to quite the drug in a rather soft and slow mode in order to reduce withdrawal syndrome and fatalities.
Treatment of the users is another method applied by various European nations in order to try and maintain the physical and mental health of the users as they undergo rehabilitation and p\other programs (Fukumi, 2008). Since it is recognized that the users develop a tendency of consuming less food and even vomiting quite often, feeding programs for these persons are established, where they are provided with nutrient enriched foods.
In addition, the users are provided with frequent medical care in order to improve their immune system, since this drug normally suppresses the immune system. This intervention aims at reducing the probability of secondary infections, especially those related to microorganisms and viruses.
Abadinsky, H. (2010). Drug Use and Abuse: A Comprehensive Introduction. Mason,
OH: Cengage Learning.
Figueira, D. (2004).Cocaine and Heroin Trafficking in the Caribbean: The Case of
Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.
Fukumi, S. (2008). Cocaine trafficking in Latin America: EU and US policy responses.
Hampshire, UK: Ashgate Pubvlishing
Galanter, M., & Kleber, H. D. (2008). The American Psychiatric Publishing textbook of
substance abuse treatment. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.
Hess, K. M., & Orthmann, C. H. (2009). Criminal Investigation. Mason, OH: Cengage
International Narcotics Control Board. (2007). Report of the International Narcotics
Control Board 2006. New York, NY: United Nations Publications.
Kenner C., & Lott, J. W. (2007). Comprehensive neonatal care: an interdisciplinary
approach. St. Louise, MI: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Kozel, N. J. (2002). Cocaine Use in America: Epidemmiologic & Clinical Perspectives.
Rockville, Maryland: DIANE Publishing.
Platt, J. J. (2001). Heroin addiction: theory, research, and treatment, Volume 2.
Huntington, N.Y: R.E. Krieger Pub. Co
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Laboratory and Scientific Section. (2005).
Methods for impurity profiling of heroin and cocaine: manual for use by National
Drug Testing Laboratories. New York, NY: United Nations Publications.